R395m project will double Durban convention centre's capacity

Posted On Monday, 23 February 2004 02:00 Published by
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CONSTRUCTION of a R395m expansion project at Durban's International Convention Centre (ICC) is under way, and is scheduled to be completed by May 2006.

The expansion will double the centre's capacity and make it the biggest facility in the country.

The ICC began 2004 on a high note, having recently been voted Africa's leading conference centre for the third consecutive year by World Travel Awards.

CEO Alec Gilbert says that on completion of Phase 2 the final phase of the expansion ICC Durban will be the only venue in the country able to accommodate events for more than 10000 people and will cover an area of 32000m².

"The worldwide trend is for bigger conferences, and this project will enable us to meet the requirements of the most valuable end of the international meetings industry."

He says the centre will be able to seat 13000 people and will have a new 6000-seater auditorium, the Durban Arena, to be used for indoor sports events and concerts, opening up new revenue streams.

"It will mark the beginning of a new era for ICC as the building becomes accessible to the public," says Gilbert.

The development site, to the south of the existing building, will house a 200-room hotel, and restaurants, exhibition facilities, a museum and an entertainment area capable of accommodating 15000 people at music concerts.

Obed Mlaba, mayor of eThekwini, says that with the building of an indoor sports arena the ICC will entrench Durban as Africa's leading "indaba city" and will assist it in its bid for major international sporting events, such as the Soccer World Cup.

Construction of the arena is expected to create 23000 permanent jobs within its first 10 years of operation.

"We will continue to set ICC Durban apart from other convention centres by marketing our centre as the most African experience. The expansion and the April 2004 opening of the uShaka Marine World will add impetus to our campaign," says Gilbert.

On the issue of whether the recent reported tail-off in the number of foreign tourists to SA, as a result of the strengthening of the rand, would impact adversely on the local conference industry, Gilbert says: "There is unlikely to be any negative impact as the conference industry works well in advance and there is commitment from organisers and conveners."

He says that unforeseen circumstances like the September 11 disaster or the Sars virus "are examples of outside forces that could affect us".

Nomaxabiso Majokweni, executive director of the Sandton Convention Centre, says there is a need to exploit the wild life, scenic attractions, cultural and historical tourism products of Africa that offer different experiences to those that are found in Europe, North America or Asia.

"Unique tourism opportunities are often important when organisers are considering bids for conferences and exhibitions, as business people like to have the option of sightseeing before or after a convention or exhibition," she says.

At present, Africa only has a minuscule share of the international convention market, she says. The SA share, for example, is put at only 3%.

To exploit this potential requires proactive action by governments, tourism authorities and the convention industry in African states, says Majokweni.


Feb 23 2004 07:40:16:000AM Business Day 1st Edition

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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